Thursday, February 27, 2003
Steamboat Springs Two months ago, Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Cyndy Simms and Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal John DeVincentis signed an agreement to undergo professional mediation.
Today, that agreement becomes more than just ink on paper.
Simms and DeVincentis are in Denver today to meet with a professional arbiter at The Judicial Arbiter Group Inc.
The goal of mediation is to develop and maintain a long-term, professional working relationship between the two embattled school officials.
"I'm hopeful," Simms said. "This is what we've been waiting for, so let's do it."
DeVincentis also said he is hopeful mediation will enable the two to move forward.
Details of the mediation process are unclear, but the School Board expects a written plan for the future to come out of it, board President Paul Fisher said.
Whether that written plan is made available to the public is a matter the board will discuss during executive session at Monday's board study session, Fisher said.
The district will pay for the one-day mediation, though the exact cost hasn't been determined. JAG arbiter fees range from $210 to $350 per hour, depending on the arbiter, according to JAG's Web site.
The arbiter who will handle mediation has experience dealing with school districts and employer/employee relations, Simms said in January.
The conflict between Simms and DeVincentis flared up in June 2002, when DeVincentis received a poor performance evaluation from Simms. DeVincentis' pay-for-performance bonus and a salary increase were withheld because of the poor marks on his evaluation.
DeVincentis appealed the evaluation to the board, which eventually awarded DeVincentis his bonus and salary increase but refused to change the marks on his evaluation.
On Dec. 19, 2002, Simms and DeVincentis signed an agreement to "use Judicial Arbiter Group for mediation purposes and create a future long-term professional working relationship including effective communication."
At the Jan. 13, 2003, board meeting, the board elected not to renew DeVincentis' contract. Instead, the board offered him a revised contract. A clause in the revised contract mandates mediation for the two and makes failure to perform mediation and follow the mediation plan grounds for DeVincentis' dismissal.
DeVincentis signed the contract at the board meeting.
Then, at the Feb. 10 board meeting, DeVincentis used the time allotted for staff comment to refute what he said were false accusations made about him by Simms during a Nov. 14, 2002, hearing about his evaluation appeal.